If you're in a long-term relationship, it's possible there will be moments when it feels like your partner is falling out of love, growing distant, or pulling away. And to some degree, that's completely natural. All relationships have high points and low points. But if you keep communicating, it's possible to get through to them and come out the other side healthier than ever.
You can start by asking a few simple questions as a way of checking in with your partner, bridging the gap, and patching up any areas that need patching. "Sometimes when people inquire about what’s going on, it turns out that it’s something they weren’t at all aware of in their partner’s life," Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "If they open up to you about what’s really going on, actively listen to what they have to say, and then ask them how you can best support them during this hard time."
If it turns out something deeper is going on, talking about it right away can be a big help, too. "It’s always best to deal with the problems quickly rather than delaying," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "That’s why it’s important to communicate as soon as you think there’s a problem."
If they're still invested in the relationship, they'll be down to talk about it — and may even be grateful that you asked. Here are a few questions you can ask your partner as a way of starting a conversation about your relationship, according to experts.
"What Do You Need?"
Similarly, it never hurts to ask your partner if they need anything — whether it be time, attention, or even a favor.
"Many people pull away because their needs aren’t being met in some way," Bennett says. "However, they might be too emotionally distant or uncomfortable to take the lead in expressing their needs. You might be surprised at your partner’s unmet needs if you actually ask!"
"Do You Want To Try Something New?"
Sometimes, when a person grows distant in a relationship, it's because they no longer feel that "spark." So consider asking your partner how they'd like to get that back.
"Most relationships fail because the spark of attraction is missing," Bennett says. "By having a conversation about the lack of a spark and how to get it back, you’re forcing a discussion on practical ways to make the relationship succeed. It might not work, but this question at least allows a frank discussion about how to improve the relationship."
"Do I Seem Different To You?"
You can also approach the subject by asking your partner how things seem from their perspective.
"This should hopefully open up the conversation to what’s missing in your relationship right now and how you can both work to make it better, as well as what you both need from each other to feel that emotional connection once again," McBain says.
This might include going to couples therapy, going on more dates, or taking time throughout the day to reconnect — whatever seems like it might bring you together again.
"You Seem Distracted. Is There Anything You Want To Talk About?"
This is another gentle but effective way of figuring out what's wrong. As McBain says, "What you’re wanting to do is 'find a way in' so that you can have an open and honest conversation about the state of your relationship, which will hopefully lead to ways to be more connected to each other once again."
"When Was The Last Time You Felt Close To Me?"
If it feels like this is the type of question you can ask, without making things uncomfortable, then definitely go for it.
"This question can both help you understand if your partner is or is not feeling close and connected to you, but can also help generate dialogue, conversation, and curiosity between you two about the circumstances that last led to you feeling close," Annie Wright, LMFT of Evergreen Counseling, tells Bustle.
Did they feel closest a month ago? Six months ago? "For instance, if it was over the summer months when you both took time to spend three long weekends away together but it's been months since you did that, it can be a clue of what you may need to reinstate in order to get back to that same level of closeness," Wright says.
"Do You Want To Make Things Better?"
If your partner seems distant to the point you're worried they may end the relationship, consider asking them if they even want to make things better.
"You are essentially asking if your partner is still committed to you and to the relationship," Wright says. "While this question can be hard and scary to ask, it is [...] one of the most important questions you can ask if you suspect your partner is falling out of love with you, as it invites honesty back into your conversations."
"What Could We Do Differently?"
If it's obvious things are going off course, ask your partner for their thoughts, and if they have any ideas of what you could both do differently going forward.
"This question isn’t exactly subtle, but gets right to point to find out your partner’s feelings about what things could be changed in the relationship to make it better," Dr. Sommerfeldt says.
"What Do Couples In Love Look Like?"
Any variation of this question can help you get a peek inside your partner's brain, and what they think of when they think about love.
"Ask for an example of what your partner thinks being in love looks like," Dr. Sommerfeldt says. "This is helpful to see if the two of you have the same or similar expectations. Your partner may believe couples in love have more physical intimacy while you believe couples in love talk more. Getting clarification on what you two believe about being in love can be very eye-opening."
"Want To Go On An Adventure?"
If your partner is down to hang out and go on adventures, that's a great sign, as it shows they're still invested in the relationship, to some degree. But the mere act of doing something different and exciting can bring you closer together as well.
"If you’re worried [...], you’d likely benefit from engaging in activities that enact the release of the passion chemicals — do things that scare you, have intense conversations, expand your comfort zone, take risks, try something new that may not be appealing on first glance, [or[ spend time apart," Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, tells Bustle. "The feeling of being ‘in love’ can be reignited if you break old habits, cultivate anticipation, and work on passion in your relationship. The expectation that it should arise naturally is unrealistic."
"Are You In The Mood?"
"This is not so much a question, but an action: initiate physical contact," Dr. Sommerfeldt says. "This could be simply holding one’s hand, a kiss on the cheek, or putting a hand on the knee."
Any type of connection may spark a heart-to-heart, while also making you feel closer. "It’s important to re-establish your physical contact and connection," Dr. Sommerfeldt says. "Physical contact also gets areas of the brain activated and neurochemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin flowing, which can increase excitement, pleasure, and feelings of love."
If it seems like your partner is falling out of love, these questions might be just what your relationship needs. They can lead to healthy conversations about the future, they create space to discuss problems — and they can also bring you closer together. Because when it comes to creating a healthier relationship, sometimes all you have to do is ask.